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February 19, 1955


Author Affiliations

Department of Zoology University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz.

166 N. Frontier St. Wickenburg, Ariz.

JAMA. 1955;157(8):680. doi:10.1001/jama.1955.02950250054021

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To the Editor:—  A communication, which in our opinion was somewhat startling, appeared in The Journal for Jan. 2, 1954, page 81, over the signature of David I. Macht, M.D., of Baltimore. It is entitled "Serpents' Sense of Hearing." The evidence presented consists of a heterogeneous assemblage of dubious "data" from Scripture, Shakespeare, and newsprint; these are common enough references and authorities, to be sure, but not of scientists. Without laboring the details involved in the various scientific investigations of this problem, we quote a summarizing statement (Prosser, C. L., and others: Comparative Animal Physiology, Philadelphia, W. B. Saunders Company, 1950, p. 489) concerning the basic anatomic fact that snakes cannot hear: "Snakes have no middle ear, and the outer end of the columella is attached to the quadrate bone of the skull. This arrangement makes snakes (even the cobra!) insensitive to air-borne sounds but very sensitive to earth-borne vibrations,

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